Structure 2010: Benioff Says Salesforce Is Trying to Learn From Facebook

Salesforce.com Chairman and Founder Marc Benioff told the GigaOM Structure conference that his company has spent over half of its research and development budget developing features like the recently launched Twitter-style Chatter service, and that the company is learning from Facebook and trying to bring those kinds of features to enterprise software in the same way it originally learned from Amazon.

“When I started Salesforce, I asked myself why all enterprise software wasn’t like Amazon,” Benioff said. “Now I’m asking why all enterprise software isn’t like Facebook…how can we learn from that and bring that into the enterprise?” Cloud computing isn’t the only important aspect of the current technology revolution that is sweeping through society, Benioff said — it is also the rise of mobility, and the rise of social networking. The Salesforce CEO said this was brought home to him on a trip to Japan, where mobile computing is growing rapidly and social networks such as Twitter and the Japanese network Mixi are hugely popular.

Benioff said that these three phenomena — the shift to cloud computing, mobility and the rise of social networking — represent what he called Cloud 2, or the next phase of cloud computing, and that Salesforce is trying to incorporate all of them into its software and services. These developments “are going to create more value and more capability for the industry than the last shift” in cloud computing, he said. “We have to transform ourselves, and we are working hard at that — we have made some big bets [but] we have to work harder.” Social aspects such as Chatter aren’t just additions to the company’s services, Benioff said. They are “integrated deeply into our core architecture.”

The Salesforce CEO, who said the company is now at a “$1.5 billion revenue run rate,” admitted that he was somewhat flattered at a recent conference the company put on when Microsoft employees showed up and protested outside against cloud computing. “People didn’t believe me; I had to take photos to show people; they were handing out brochures, trying to stop the cloud,” he said. “I guess you could say you’ve made it in cloud software when Microsoft is protesting your company.”

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